Saturday, December 30, 2023

Parkrun Tourism Part 07 - 2023 Episode 02

All over the place. May-December 2023.

Dramatis personae:
  • Mark McLellan (me)
  • Mary Galashan (wife)
  • Sandra Carpenter (sister-in-law)

This year I did 48 parkruns including 20 new locations and 4 new countries. 

As reported in Parkrun Tourism Part 07 - 2023 Episode 01 I reached 50 unique locations in the first four months of this year including:

  • Ford
  • Gateshead
  • Cleethorpes
  • Victoria Dock
  • Ruchill
  • Monsal Trail
  • York

Since then I have done 13 others taking me up to a grand total of 63 unique locations:

Normally we do not do much touristing over the summer because we are in southern Italy. This year however we aimed to complete our Alphabeteer challenge so we did a number of city breaks in Poland and Germany plus a "Grand Tour" by train from Italy back to the UK:
  • University of Stirling
  • Zielony Jar
  • Holyrood
  • Jabłona
  • Itchen Vally Country 
  • St Albans
  • Neckarufer, Esslingen
  • Farfalle
  • Hellbrun
  • Amsterdamse Bos
  • Malahide (Mary's first time)
  • Springburn
  • Beverley Westwood
  • Southwark
We reached a number of parkrun milestones:
  • 25 volunteering at Holyrood on 17/06/2023 (Mark)
  • 50 volunteering at Salento on 15/07/2023 (Mary)
  • 150th parkwalk at Penrith on 04/11/2023 (Mary)
  • 200th parkrun at Penrith on 02/12/2023 (Mark)
And achieved a number of 5K app challenges:
  • Pirates at Cleethorpes on 14/01/2023 (Mark, Mary)
  • Groundhog Day at Salento on 25/03/2023 (Mark)
  • Half Cowell at York on 29/04/2023 (Mark) 
  • Palindrome at Salento on 02/07/2023 (Mark)
  • Alphabeteer, Jetsetter and"Parkrun" at Neckarufer, Esslingen on 23/09/2023 (Mark, Mary)
  • Half Cowell and Volunteer Tourist at Neckarufer, Esslingen on 23/09/2023 (Mary) 
  • Compass Club at Southwark on 16/12/2023  (Mark, Mary)

University of Stirling 06/05/2023 28:36 [85 / 170].

Headed north to the University of Stirling parkrun where we got a "U", a Nelson 111 and wet. Scenic two lapper round a loch in lovely countryside. Only slight downside is that the start and finish are slightly separate so there is a small hill which you do at the start, middle and end.

Afterwards, as they say in Scotland, drookit!

Amongst the day's lovely volunteers were this Tailwalker and her Tail Wagger!

Zielony Jar 27/05/2023 28:13 [23 / 46].

A new parkrun for us in a new country, Poland, and got a Z. The Run Director asked for a Tail Walker so Mary volunteered. She had a great walk round chatting to Michael on his first ever parkwalk and saw a red squirrel. We were joined by Sandra who is now addicted to parkrun and parkrun tourism. Quite a few visitors, including Michelle and Lance who have promised to come to Salento parkrun.

Mary got a volunteer credit for Zamykający Stawkę which slightly made up for the fact that the hi-viz clashed with her new Tikiboo outfit - I knew that!

Full report of the weekend at City Break - Krakow.

Holyrood 17/06/2023 28:34 [212 / 365].

Parkrun in Scotland starts at 9:30 instead of 9:00 unlike England, Wales and the rest of Europe. As Mary had already done the course and knew about the elevation profile, she offered to be a volunteer. We were early enough that I was able to help set up the finish funnel and get a volunteer credit as well as running.

Mary sporting yet another new pair of colourful Tikiboo leggings. Apparently she chose them to match the volunteers’ orange hi-viz forgetting that marshals get pink ones!

Full report of the weekend at City Break - Edinburgh.

Jablonna 29/07/2023 29:40 [75 / 125]. 

Parkrun Jabłonna and a J for the parkrun alphabet. Only when we arrived at the start we discovered it was their 300th event which meant lots of runners and walkers plus cake and jollity. Very enjoyable 3 and a bit lapper through the woods. 

Posing before the start.

Mary volunteered as parkwalker.

Mary was surprised by the huge cheers she got at the finish line but it turned out that, at position 116, she was the person who broke the previous course attendance record. The previous record was 115 people on 26th August 2017 and that's why there was so much cheering! The finally tally was 125.

The official photographers took some great photos.

The record-breaking crowd at parkrun Jabłonna.

Full report of the trip at City Break - Warsaw

Itchen Valley Country 19/08/2023 29:59 [84 / 206] 

Back in the UK for three weeks, we ended up doing a very enjoyable 10 day road trip round the south of England visiting various friends. The first Saturday we were in Ringwood and went to nearby Itchen Valley to get the penultimate letter for our parkrun alphabet.  

Full report at UK Road Trip, August 2023.

St Albans 26/08/2023 29:18 [241 / 544]

The second Saturday of our road trip found us in St Albans. Choice of parkruns nearby but decided on the eponymous St. Albans. A run / walk around the lovely Verulamium Park and a view of the cathedral - they missed a chance to have another V in the UK! A big crowd, more than 500, but wide open at the start so no congestion. Lovely 3 laps of a lake and great day for it, not too hot. 

Unusually there was another parkwalker who walked at the same pace as Mary so she had company all the way round. 

After a shower and change it was off to Harpenden on the train for my godson Lorenzo and Julie's wedding.

Neckerufer, Esslingen 23/09/2023 29:57 [22 / 44].

We had a fantastic weekend in Esslingen near Stuttgart, a part of Germany that we knew nothing about. With huge thanks to Markus and Manuela for inspiring us to visit the area and giving up their time to act as great local guides.

We first met Markus and Manuela when they came to Salento parkrun whilst on holiday in Puglia. Markus is one of the Run Directors for Neckarufer and was encouraging people to visit. 

Mary had got out her spreadsheet earlier in the year and worked out a plan whereby we could complete our parkrun alphabet challenge (doing a parkrun starting with each letter of the alphabet, except X) plus Mary's 50th different parkrun location and Jetsetter (parkruns in five countries) all at the same time at Neckarufer!

In parkrun circles visiting 100 different locations is known as a Cowell (after the first person to complete the feat) and 50 events is a half Cowell (or Cow). Before the start Markus and Manuela presented Mary with appropriate bovine headband, and as you can see she already had the alphabet leggings.

After parkrun and breakfast with the locals at a nearby cafe it was back to the apartment for a shower and then some normal touristing with Markus and Manuela. Full report at City Break - Esslingen.

Farfalle 07/10/2023 28:51 [23 / 54]

To celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary we embarked on Interrailing for Seniors - a three week rail journey from southern Italy to Amsterdam. The first Saturday of this grand tour was in a place with a parkrun, what are the chances of that! Four laps of a lovely wooded course. Lots of tourists and a couple of local celebrations so great fun.

A homemade frame constructed of plywood and sticky tape.

Mary volunteered for tail walker.

Padua is a fascinating city, still to be written up in a blog post.

Hellbrun 14/10/2023 29:41 [19 / 23]

The second Saturday of our 30th wedding anniversary tour we are now in Salzburg and, guess what, there is a parkrun here! 

Lovely flat, 2.5 laps with brilliant views. As is usual here tourists outnumber the locals today - apparently the locals prefer to run up the mountains.

Great bunch of volunteers including Mary as Schlussbegleitung (Tailwalker). Given the Hell in the name Mary chose leggings called "More Bloody Skulls".

Mary also doubled up as "post event clear up" volunteer.

Then off to get ourselves a serious does of culture.

Amsterdamse Bos 21/10/2023 28:48 [72 / 123]

The third Saturday of our 30th wedding anniversary tour and we were in Amsterdam. We chose Amsterdamse Bos parkrun to get an A for the Namely challenge (every letter of your name). Beautiful park, one lap course, lovely local cafe for parkfaff and great bunch of volunteers. Tourists from all over with strong contingent from Oz. 

We were amused by the cheese shaped receptacle for the tokens; normally it is just an old bucket.

One more night in Amsterdam to complete the Grand Tour.

Malahide 11/11/2023 28:49 [182 / 311]

A return visit to one of our favourite cities, Dublin, for the first time in a while. I have done Malahide before - literally my second ever parkrun. Now Mary parkwalks we are playing catch up, ticking off locations that she had missed first time round and we were joined by Sandra. It was the 11th birthday of Malahide parkrun on the 11th of the 11th on a near perfect day. Complete with song led by Eric, RD from Belfast:

🎵You are my parkrun, my only parkrun
You make me happy when skies are grey
And when you're not on
You do my head in
Please don't take my parkrun away🎵

Sandra volunteered as parkwalker in the blue tabard.

Mary, as often, volunteered as talkwalker.

Then into Dublin for more Guinness!

Springburn 18/11/2023 28:30 [80 / 123]

A trip to Glasgow for a cookery course so Springburn parkrun today. A wet day but amazingly the rain held off between 9:30 and 10:30! Lovely park, great bunch of volunteers and lots of tourists. Another briefing involving a song - this time a spoken version of Wonderwall with adapted lyrics. Two laps but start and end are in slightly different places meaning that you do the only real hill three times!

Sandra powering in at 38:51 - that is a fast walk!

Mary in matching pink parkwalk t-shirt.

Lovely autumnal colours.

A bit of a cold wet one.

Beverley Westwood 25/11/2023 29:39 [97 / 219]

We went to Pocklington to see an amazing slide guitarist, Martin Harley, full report at Pocklington Weekend. We chose Beverley Westwood parkrun over other possibilities in the area as this gave us a compass point and a B for Sandra, 

Beautiful sunny morning but cold with a biting wind. Two laps of a very scenic course in a lovely park. The course took us round an old black windmill.

Two and a half laps, frosty and hilly. A bit up and down - even the undulations had undulations.

Huge thanks to the volunteers and especially the really cheerful marshal who was stationed on the coldest part of the course. 

Southwark 16/12/2023 28:37 [252 / 271]

In London for a few days decorating a rental flat. Silver lining was that it was a great chance to catch up with London-based friends who we now rarely see.

On our last day we did Southwark parkrun for a South to complete the Compass challenge. Three flat laps on tarmac round a lovely park.  Should have been a fast course but not for Mary after all the Christmas meetups this week.

Quite a few tourists, great bunch of volunteers and more pacers than ever seen before, spanning 19 to 40 minutes.

And that was our last new tourist venue for the year. It was back to Penrith for the rest, apart from Christmas Day at Keswick parkrun.

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

David Gordon Trio at 606 Club

London, UK. Tuesday 12-December-2023.

We were in London for four days to do landlord duties redecorating in one of our buy-to-let flats in Wandsworth. That gave us an opportunity to meet up with various friends in the evenings. Tuesday it was the turn of Annie and Simon. They suggested some live music at the 606 Club in Chelsea. We were definitely up for that. Investigating travel options via the wonderful CityMapper app we discovered there was a bus which would take us almost door-to-door from hotel to venue and back. Result!

We surprisingly had never been to this club but it has been going for many decades. It definitely fell into the small, intimate venue category. Located in a basement in a residential street, it was modest in size. We got there fairly early and ordered ourselves supper. The food was excellent quality and gave us time to finish before the band appeared.

The David Gordon Trio comprises piano, double bass and drums. Mary noticed that the bass player was constantly consulting his music. We wondered if he might not have been their regular bass player but they worked together well.

David Gordon, occasionally switched from piano to Melodica a small wind keyboard instrument.

They played mostly their own compositions, some of which included themes or motifs from a number of classical composers: Bach, Schubert, Byrd, and Brazilian music.

All good, solid dinner jazz and an excellent opportunity to catch up with old friends.

Saturday, December 09, 2023

Tide Lines at Brewery Arts

Kendal, Cumbria, UK. Saturday 09-December-2023.

The sister-in-law and husband are fans of Tide Lines and have seen them several times. They were performing at nearby Kendal and as Mary’s aunt Avril wanted to go we made an evening of it with a lovely meal beforehand and an overnight stay.

The support act were Blue Violet, a duo; the female lead had a good voice. 

Tide Lines are folk-rock and have been described as “anthemic indie-folk”. To my ear they are less folk and more rock with catchy choruses that the crowd can chant along to more like U2 or Queen or other stadium filling bands. Mary detected more of the folk elements with songs that reminded her of the traditional folk tunes she grew up with.

We were towards the back of the venue and as it has a low ceiling and the stage isn’t raised up you don’t get much of a view of the band. 

We were surrounded by people singing along to every song. They clearly knew all the words and were enthusiastically waving their hands in the air. It was bizarrely being like at a cult meeting surrounded by the faithful. I did enjoy the music notwithstanding the adulation from others. 

Penrith Run Report #432

Frenchfields, Penrith, Cumbria, UK. Saturday 09-December-2023.

A group of us take it in turns to volunteer as report writer at Penrith parkrun. This week it was my turn and below is my report.

You’ll never be last at parkrun.

There is a parkrun motto “It’s a run not a race “. While some participants are keen to go as fast as possible, it is not a competition. You are not going to beat Harry Lancaster or Jonathan Cox (16:24 and 17:18 respectively on latest outings). There are no medals or trophies to be won. The only person you are competing against is yourself. There are many ways to judge how well you’re doing and to provide that extra motivation.

Just being there: It’s 9 o’clock on a Saturday morning and you’re waiting for the off. That’s so much better than all the other couch potatoes still in bed. You can feel pleased with yourself for crawling out from under the duvet and getting out there.

Under starter’s orders

This week 151 people ran, jogged and walked the course, of whom 17 were first timers (1 first ever parkrun and 16 visitors) and 10 recorded new Personal Bests. Representatives of 23 different clubs took part. A fair turnout considering the cold and wet conditions.

Thanks, as usual, to all the volunteers for making parkrun possible.

Age category: There will always be people younger than you and faster than you. It is much more useful to look at the age category and see how you’re doing against your peers.

Age graded score: My personal favourite. This gives you a percentage score against a worldwide sample of people your age. A bit like a golf handicap, it enables you to compare people of different ages. You can sort the results by age grading and discover that you may have been behind by faster athletes but because they are younger you, in fact, have a higher score than them.

PB (Personal Best): Many people join parkrun to get fit. Your very first parkrun at any event is set as a PB. Thereafter, every time you improve you get a new PB. When you start at parkrun you’ll find your fitness gets better and better and you will keep setting new PBs. Very encouraging.

Milestones: Where you can say “Been there, done that, got the T-shirt”. At various milestones, you are eligible to treat yourself to a T-shirt: 25, 50, 100, 250 and even, occasionally seen, 500. Other arbitrary milestones at multiples of 50 are also celebrated. When you reach a milestone, let the Run Director know. They will give you a shout out and you’ll get a round applause for sticking with it.

Congratulations this week to: Ruth Evans (100 volunteering), Charlie Beaumont (250), Gillian Silson (200 plus 101 volunteering).

Ruth Evans, Gillian Silson, Helen Campion (First timer)

Charlie Beaumont (250 parkruns)

Now Charlie can get the well-deserved green t-shirt and start working towards the next.

Kath Owen sporting the prestigious 500 T-shirt.

You’ll never be last at parkrun: The role of the Tail Walker is to be last! Primarily they are there to make sure that no one gets left behind. They also act as a companion for the people at the back. That can be for many reasons: coming back from injury, recovering from illness or operation, getting back out having given birth, just starting your journey to fitness. It doesn’t matter whatever your pace is there’s always somebody literally behind you.

Another motto is “It’s about the finish line, not the finish time”. A 50 minute parkrun is just as far as a 20 minute parkrun. So come along and give it a go.

Friday, December 08, 2023

Bare Wires at Fell Bar

Penrith, Cumbria, UK. Friday 08-December-2023.

Local band Bare Wires were due to appear in the upstairs room at Fell Bar. The plan was to drink beer and listen to live music. Sounds good to me.

The bill was shared with an unplanned act, Jon Bowie (apparently part of Bowie, Beak and Powney), who we saw last weekend at the open mic plug and play at Penrith Players.

He was excellent again. His fingers positively flew across the fretboard. An impressive display of virtuoso guitar playing blues and blues/rock.

Then the main act, Bare Wires, most of whom are regulars in the bar downstairs!

A four piece band (guitar, keyboards, bass and drums) they play Chicago Blues with a bit of soul and funk in the mix.

They played for a couple of hours over two sets with a glass refilling opportunity in between. An excellent way to spend a Friday evening. 

Thursday, December 07, 2023

Christmas Dinner Wine Pairings December 2023

Bassenthwaite Lake Station, Cumbria, Thursday 07-December-2023.

Another wine tasting at Bassenthwaite Lake Station. As usual we booked ourselves into the Pheasant Inn for a dinner, bed and breakfast deal. We had an early supper before the tasting so we weren’t drinking on an empty stomach. Luckily we only had a main course.

What we hadn’t realised was that, instead of the usual small plate of cheese and pate, this was a full on food pairing with a small dish to accompany every wine! It was like eating two meals in rapid succession. Fortunately the portions were canapé sized so we managed without being completely stuffed. Mary being dairy free her plates were often different from mine.

Name of wine, Shop or Supplier, Country 

  • Food Pairing 
  • Tasting notes - appearance, nose, palate 
  • Mary’s Notes.


0. Mulled wine comparison Bassenthwaite Lake Station or Aldi  

  • Mince Pie (no alternative for special diets or allergens) 
  • One is a shop-bought tipple, one is home-made using Merlot wine. Cost - £1.99 or £9 per bottle. 
  • a. slight vegetal nose, not very sweet, no distinct flavours (Aldi)
  • b. spicy nose lots of cinnamon, deeper, sweeter (BLS)


1.  Sancerre Domaine Jean Thomas 2021, 13.5% Lakeland Vintners France

  • Smoked Salmon and cream cheese en croute Good match with the Sancerre.
  • Smoked Salmon and chive (DF) Best with the Chablis.
  • Aromatic and pungent, this crsip, zesty Sauvignon Blanc displays the distinct grassy notes of a top-notch Sancerre. A really good pairing for light cream cheese and poached dishes with acidity to cut through and balance any butteriness. 
  • Pungent nose, zesty, slightly grassy, .

2. Domaine Testut Vieilles Vignes Chablis, 2019  France

  • Prawn cocktail Good match with the Chablis.
  • Tofu cocktail (vegan) Best with the Sancerre.
  • Made from hand-picked perfectly ripe Massale grapes (a clone of Chardonnay) Elegant and with perfectly-balanced minerailty, this will develop in your glass as you drink. 
  • Light nose, clean, no oak; smooth, some body, mineral.


3. Wide River Chenin Blanc, 13% Lakeland Vintners South Africa 

  • Sage and onion stuffing ball
  • Veggie sausage in leek (vegan) Best with the Grenache blanc.
  • This amazing value Chenin Blanc is soft, fruity and aromatic with an acidic balance. Its ability to pair with roast chicken and pork and all the trimmings makes it an ideal pairing for stuffing. 
  • Typical Chenin blanc nose; aromatic.

4 Grenache Blanc 172, Selection Parcellaire, 12.5% Lakeland Vintners France

  • Mushroom and Chestnut Arancini Good match.
  • Rich and expressive, this elegant wine has notes of ripe tropical fruits and a touch of lime. With enough acidity to balance, it will pair well with richer vegetable dishes. Contains Mushrooms
  • Rich, tasty, interesting; more complex flavours.


5. Henry Fessy Brouilly 13.5% 2019 Lakeland Vintners France

  • Pig in Blanket Good match.
  • One of the favourites at our recent Beaujolais tasting, we felt this was a perfect Christmas lunch wine with its crisp acidity to cut through the richness of the meal. Medium-bodied and very flavoursome, this fruit-dominated wine has fine tannins and great elegance. 
  • at last month’s Beaujolais tasting.


6 Chateau Corbin 2021, 14.5% Lakeland Vintners France

  • Turkey Yorkshire pudding & rich gravy
  • Veggie haggis in yorkshire pudding & veggie gravy (vegan) Good match.
  • Immensely rich and bold, this amazingly smooth Corbin is full of ripe prunes and plum aromas and smooth tannins. Can hold its own, and enhance, any traditional roast dinner. 
  • at this tasting! Smooth, balanced, complex, lovely.


7. Colosia Pedro Ximinez sherry, 17%, half bottle Lakeland Vintners Spain 

  • Christmas Pudding and brandy sauce
  • Vegan Christmas Pudding (no nuts) and DF sauce Perfect match.
  • An exquisite dark-coloured wine with heady notes of raisins, plums and figs and rich molasses on the palate. Great with Christmas pudding or poured generously over good quality vanilla icecream. Think liquid Christmas pudding flavours! Standard Christmas pudding contains nuts
  • , lovely, refined; Rich, sweet, but not too cloying.


Cheeseboard comprising 

  • Mature cheddar and fruit cake
  • Stilton
  • Rocquefort (sheeps milk) 
  • Torpenhow brie 

8. Hornhead Malbec, 13% Lakeland Vintners France

  • A great-value, soft French red, perfect with stronger cheeses and hearty dishes. 
  • Soft, fruity, plummy; bit sweet.

9. Pocas 10 year old Tawny Port Lakeland Vintners Portugal 

  • This elegant wine is matured in oak and has a bouquet of dried fruits and plums. Enjoy with Stilton, blue-veined french cheese, walnuts or treacle tart some cheese biscuits contain nuts
  • Nice tawny, sweet, fruity, nutty .

10. Mitchells, Clare Valley, Noble Semilion 2018, 10.5% Lakeland Vintners Australia  

  • A silky, well-balanced, South Australian sweetie with intense orange candy and tropical fruit flavours. Ideal with pate or blue cheese. Sublime with Roquefort.
  • Yummy, proper botrytis nose and taste .

At the end the leftovers are put on the bar for people to help themselves.

We were kept company by Poppy, the station lab.

A short stagger back to the Pheasant Inn for a nightcap where I felt like a python who had swallowed a goat.